Mid-Semester Showing Survey

October 11th, 2011 – Anime Reviews, CJAS, Reviews

Shockingly, the semester is already at its halfway point, so it’s about time to talk about what’s been going on in showing.  For each show we’re watching, I’ll be summarizing the premise, discussing the plot up to this point, and then adding my own thoughts about the series.  As always, plot can and does equal spoilers, so make sure to skip over plot sections where you don’t want to know just yet.  We’re watching a lot of great shows this semester, so many of these come with strong recommendations.

Paprika:

Summary- We started off our first week of showing with this trippy film by the late Satoshi Kon.  Anyone that watched Paranoia Agent with us back in Spring 2010 should immediately notice the similarities in animation, music, and tone, as well as some familiar themes.  It’s a story about a device to connect people within their dreams, and what happens when that causes dreams and reality to collide.

Plot- I’m not going to summarize the plot for a movie here.  If you think you might be interested, watch the movie – the purpose of plot summaries here is only for catch-up.

Opinions- I was really very impressed with this movie.  Like I mentioned earlier, it was very reminiscent of Paranoia Agent, with some incredible music and stunningly complex visuals.  I can’t say that it was perfectly easy to follow, but I think that this was a more intentional feature of the movie.  It comes highly recommended for anyone interested in a fun and mysterious romp through dreamland.

Black Lagoon:

Summary- A Japanese salaryman gets into trouble when he is taken by pirates after a disk he is transporting for his company.  Forced to throw his lot in with his kidnappers to survive, he quickly realizes that his life had been thoroughly unfulfilling up to that point, and at the end of the day decides to join up with his former captors.  We’re watching this in English, as the dub is top-notch.

Plot- You really don’t need to know anything else to enjoy this series.  The female fighter Revi is a total badass, our newbie Rock goes into badass mode when necessary, and every other character sits comfortably at a decent level of badassery.  There seems to be little or no overarching plot, with stories lasting for 2 or 3 episodes each.  And our CURRENT arc has Nazis!  Who knows why.

Opinions- I love watching this show, it’s as simple as that.  Every now and then the writers decide to be dramatic, with a moment of “Rock’s perspective is different than everyone else’s!” but then they return to fun action scenes.  Not for people looking for drama or anything super serious, but a great (almost) realistic action show.

Gungrave:

Summary- Harry and Brandon are just a couple of punk kids in their own gang.  Harry dreams of making it big one day, while Brandon is quiet and seems content to simply be around Harry and his girlfriend Maria.  When they get in a fight with another local gang, they realize that they might just be in over their heads…

Plot- …when that gang leader’s mafia brother begins killing off their other friends.  Soon, it’s only Harry, Brandon, and Maria left.  With little direction remaining, Harry and Brandon aimlessly run about town until Harry becomes resolved to join Millenion, the organized crime organization.  With Maria adopted by the organization’s leader, Brandon sees his best chance at happiness also lies within Millenion.  After going to a Millenion social with Maria, he gets shot defending Maria’s new father, while Harry is working hard to make his way up the organization’s social ladder.

Opinions- Gungrave isn’t particularly flashy, or extremely exciting, but the mix of action and intrigue with some very real characters makes this a very solid series.  I’m excited to get to the second half of the series (the ‘grave’ in Gungrave), but I won’t spoil what that entails – you can look it up on your own if you feel so inclined.  I would definitely recommend watching this series, and I strongly suggest starting at the beginning, so that you can truly understand Harry and Brandon.

Basilisk:

Summary- The Iga and Kouga ninja clans have bitter enemies for generations, only held back recently by a treaty forcing an uneasy peace.  However, when the shogunate needs to decide between two prospective next rulers, the treaty is annulled, and each ninja clan comes to represent one of the potential rulers in the ensuing fight.  This comes at an inopportune time for the youngest members of the two clans, who were soon to be married…

Plot- …only, OOPS!, the Iga “neglected” to inform the Kouga that this battle was taking place!  Meanwhile the two getting married are kept uninformed, while battles between the rival clans taking place with only one group understanding their right to kill.

Opinions- If anyone heard it described in this way, this series is NOT “Romeo and Juliet with ninjas.”  There are two rival factions with young members getting married, and the similarities end there.  This might be unfortunate, since, despite plenty of fights between powerful ninjas, the series so far has been BORING.  Sure, it looks very nice, and the ninjas are strong, but none of the characters are interesting and somehow the fights just aren’t the slightest bit engaging.  From what I’ve seen so far, I can’t recommend this series – it doesn’t stand up against some of our other shows.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo:

Summary- This is The Count of Monte Cristo, but in space.  You either know exactly what that means, or (like me) you’ve never read the story, and this is a fresh experience.  The visuals exclusively employ fancy patterns instead of flat colors, which is a plus or a minus – it looks incredible, but I’ve observed some people getting headaches trying to watch it.  It’s a story of intrigue and revenge, which is surprisingly well brought into relevance from a story set in the 1800s.

Plot- This is The Count of Monte Cristo, but in space.  That either gives away the entire plot, or tells you nothing.  If you still don’t know what the plot is, I strongly advise simply watching the series (or reading the book), as it’s the plot that drives the story forward, and trying to compress the plot here would be committing a massive disservice.

Opinions- I think Gankutsuo is AMAZING.  There is a lot going on, and the Count manages to steal the show at all times, even when he is offscreen.  He’s got some scheme already in motion, and I am not going to stop watching until I see it, and its consequences, through to the end.  You should definitely give this series a chance if you’re at all interested in a plot-based show.

BREAK

And now back to the article at hand.

Angel Beats!:

Summary- Everyone is dead!  Wait, should that have been a spoiler… nope!  Angel Beats follows a group of high-schoolers in the afterlife trying to fight against God for giving them cruel fates.  They do battle primarily with a girl they call “Angel”, who seeks to stop their actions at all times.  Otonashi has just entered this world with amnesia (yes, it’s cliché but vital) and joins the Aferlife Battlefront, hoping that he will be able to regain his memories while working with them.

Plot- Many episodes of random escapades against Angel don’t have any real significance.  However, we are right now in the middle of a plot arc.  The Battlefront has stripped Angel of her position of Student Council President, by messing with her test grades, thinking that it might prevent her from opposing them.  Though initially effective, this allows the corrupt Vice President to take power and begin actively opposing the Battlefront.  Otonashi takes Angel with him to stop the former Vice President, and manages to make the Vice President realize the error of his ways.

Opinions- I thought this series was good enough to watch on my own, so I am pretty excited that we’re seeing this in showing.  It’s fairly well balanced between genres, with some nice visuals and excellent music.  It doesn’t end up having the huge impact on me that I thought it might, but it is, nevertheless, a worthwhile series to watch.

Shiki:

Summary- A small, secluded town is afflicted by an apparent epidemic of residents suddenly passing away.  Meanwhile, a new family has moved into the castle-like residence sitting atop a hill.  There appears to be a connection between the new people in town and this illness, but very few of the townsfolk realize it, or suspect anything.

Plot- VAMPIRES! That’s hardly a spoiler, though – you should figure it out on your own by episode 2 or so.  The family has slowly been feeding on and converting the former residents – though, it appears that whether a person will rise again is somewhat random.  Yuuki has been aware of the vampires, ever since death failed to put a stop to his stalker’s actions.  The doctor and the priest, two of the major town leaders, have also managed to figure out what was going on – though their attempts to impede the vampires have so far been foiled.  At present, Yuuki is nearly/already dead, due to feeding his former friend, and the doctor and priest are still attempting to stop the vampires from continuing their killings.

Opinions- Love this show!  It might have something to do with showing two episodes a week, but I’ve really felt that the plot has moved forwards at a good pace, and few character actions have forced me to ask, “Why would he DO that?” as is common in horror series.  This is an engrossing series and I would highly recommend it.

Shigofumi:

Summary- When a person passes on, they are allowed to write a single letter to be delivered to someone in the living world.  This letter is known as a Shigofumi (which is literally translated as “death letter” – real creative there) and is delivered by special couriers.  The story follows Fumika, one of these couriers.

Plot- The format here is pretty consistently “letter of the week”, with each episode or two focusing on a different set of characters and how a death, and the resulting Shigofumi, affects them.  So you can usually expect at least one death an episode (can’t have a Shigofumi otherwise).  There is also a subplot following the strange case of Fumika being in a coma, not dead as all of the other couriers are, and the boy who is trying to track her down.  This is interesting, but there has not been enough given that it’s not simple to pick up on.

Opinions- Shigofumi… it’s not BAD, per se, but it’s not immensely entertaining either.  Going to a different set of characters each week means that it’s difficult to really connect to any of them, and Fumika’s lack of personality makes it difficult to connect with her, too.  This is an interesting show, but it falls a bit flat when compared to some of the other amazing shows this semester.

Soul Eater:

Summary- Shibusen is a technical school for young Meisters and Weapons to train together to collect Demon Eggs, the transformed souls of those who have begun consuming the souls of innocents.  Each Weapon, assisted by their Meister, seeks to collect 99 Demon Eggs and the soul of one Witch, in order to be made into a weapon for Death himself.  Maka and Soul are one team seeking to be the best, along with their classmates Black⋆Star and Tsubaki, and Kid, Liz, and Patty.

Plot- We haven’t gotten into the serious plot yet, with the episodes up until now focused on introducing one of the teams or showing a bit of their training.  That will end this week, so I suggest not missing this one.

Opinions- I’ve seen Soul Eater before, but I do love this series (at least the first half).  It’s shonen anime done very well.  It also has some really great themes, which are a blast to listen to.  The series unfortunately begins to fall apart in its second half, but we aren’t getting that far, and it’s fun to watch anyways.  Anyone that likes shonen should definitely give this series a try.

And that’s it for this semester.  Even if you are unable to join us for Showing on Saturday, there are plenty of series here strong enough to warrant your attention.  I really hope that I have so few bad things to say about our lineup in the future!  I guess I’ll find out when I get back to everyone with the Spring review next semester.  Happy watching, everyone!

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